Montreal's culinary reputation has long been staked on the poutine — and foie gras — laden French Canadian foods of celebrity chefs cooking at places like Joe Beef and Au Pied de Cochon. But after you shake off your gravy hangover, don't miss out on the rest of what the city has to offer, from sugar tarts to smoked meats, from Sri Lankan snacks to Haitian cocktails. Here's where to head — and what to order — to add variety to that all-poutine diet.
Partake in Canadian and Moroccan pastries at Marché Jean-Talon
Start your day with pastries as you browse the endless colorful rows of fruits and vegetables at one of Montreal's oldest markets — and certainly its most famous. But don't shop on an empty stomach. Start your tour at the northeast corner, where you'll find just a few feet of pastry case and an oval-shaped sign announcing La Fournée des Sucreries de l'Érable. The dominant color of the baked goods (and sign) is brown: The specialty is maple syrup pie, a sweet, crisp, local Quebecois delicacy that is just as good for breakfast as dessert. Across the hall, having stolen all the color, look for the U-shaped, Moroccan-decorated island housing Le Ryad, where a rainbow of North African baked goods — sweet, savory, and nutty — awaits inside.
Try a better bagel at St-Viateur Bagel
There's no reason to have to decide whether the Montreal or the New York bagel is a superior specimen: The best bagel is the one right in front of you. Especially when it's from this world-famous, 60-year-old spot. As with all bagels, the fresher the better, and the ones at St-Viateur come rolling off the conveyer belt 24 hours a day. Don't overthink it: Just ask for one fresh out of the oven, have a seat on the bench outside, and get to it.
Sample Sri Lankan snacks at Janani
Still dreaming of a time before I entered this airport. This was a quick stop for Sri Lankan short eats (snacks, basically). The egg roti was as good as any I have had, on or off island, though the rest was just okay. I rrecommend washing it all down with woodapple nectar, made with the weirdly complex juuce of a Sri Lankan fruit. Common there, hadn't seen here. #montrealfood #montrealmoments #Montreal #srilankanfood
While full meals in Sri Lanka are called "rice and curry," snacks are known as "short eats," which this spare but friendly shop serves in fine form to hungry Canadians and tourists alike. Look for fresh breads, like the egg-stuffed roti with spicy curry for dipping, fried treats called vadai, and croquette-like cutlets. Wash it all down with a refreshing wood apple juice from the cooler — it's a strangely savory, remarkably good drink rarely seen in North America.
Eat beef bologna like Bourdain at Wilensky's Light Lunch
The name says it all: The sandwiches are small. And they haven't changed since 1932 — nor much else at this old-school Jewish lunch counter. But the special — which you may have seen the likes of Anthony Bourdain and David Chang eating on television — is a simple sandwich of beef salami, bologna, and mustard (always) on a roll and smashed flat when grilled, so order as many as you need. Each one will set you back a mere $4.09 (cash only); add cheese for a few extra cents.
Stop in for smoked meat at Schwartz's
Smoked meat is Montreal's version of pastrami: long-cured, slow-smoked, and best served piled high on rye bread with mustard. And this is the original and most revered place to find it — a bustling, cash-only shop that's been at it since 1928, with a line snaking out the door.
Drink like you're on an island at Agrikol
Everything at this Haitian restaurant and bar co-owned by members of the band Arcade Fire is eye-catching, from the beach-shack-like window framing the kitchen to the palm tree wallpaper. The food, including the Haitian fried pork specialty, griot, is phenomenal, and the rum-driven drinks, like the passion fruit-spiked Kokonut, are big and beautiful. Pro tip: Use plenty of the pikliz (spicy cabbage slaw) that comes with almost every dish, including the accras, which the menu describes as Haitian beignets.
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